U.S. Can Declare Extension of Sovereign Boundaries Independent of the UNCLOS
UNCLOS proponents cite as a benefit of UNCLOS ratification, the certainty obtained from being a party to a treaty that codifies under international law the sovereign boundaries of coastal states.
Putting aside the current Arctic ‘Gold Rush’ [See: Paul Reynolds, The Arctic's New Gold Rush, BBC (Oct. 25, 2005) at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4354036.stm )], however, a coastal state need NOT be an UNCLOS treaty party to enjoy the benefits from recognized sovereign boundaries.
It is arguable that the United States, as a coastal state and an UNCLOS non-party, has two choices regarding how it could address an extension of its continental shelf beyond the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone, but to no more than 350 nautical miles from the shore (low water line):
1. It can unilaterally declare such an extension, upon presentation and deposit of scientific data substantiating its claim in an international depositary – e.g., the United Nations, just as it has before on repeated occasions, as demonstrated above; OR
2. It can choose to enter into bilateral or plurilateral negotiations with other coastal states with which it shares ‘opposite’ or ‘adjacent’ coasts bordering on the Arctic, for purposes of delineating in a peaceful, orderly manner all parties’ respective claims to their shared continental shelf area.
Choosing either one of these alternatives would have a basis in precedent. Before and after the UNCLOS when into force, Presidents, Truman, Reagan and Clinton issued four Presidential Proclamations between them that unilaterally declared for the United States of America (a non-party to the UNCLOS) the following internationally recognized sovereign boundaries:
1. A TERRITORIAL SEA EXTENDING 12 NAUTICAL MILES FROM SHORE (LOW WATER LINE)
– Presidential Proclamation No. 5928 (Dec. 27, 1988)
2. A CONTIGUOUS ZONE EXTENDING AN ADDITIONAL 12 NAUTICAL MILES FROM SHORE (LOW WATER LINE)
– Presidential Proclamation No. 7219 (Aug. 2, 1999)
3. AN EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONE EXTENDING 200 NAUTICAL MILES FROM SHORE (LOW WATER LINE)
– Presidential Proclamation No. 5030 (Mar. 10, 1983)
4. THE CONTINENTAL SHELF EXTENDING 200 NAUTICAL MILES FROM SHORE (LOW WATER LINE)
-- Presidential Proclamation No. 2667 (Sept. 28, 1945)
http://www.mms.gov/aboutmms/pdffiles/ocsla.pdf - (OUTER CONTINENTAL SHELF LANDS ACT)